Wildcats, Lightning go into boys lacrosse showdown undefeated
Thursday’s boys lacrosse game between the top two teams in the state high school rankings pits strength against strength – as in, Eagan’s offense against Eastview’s defense.
But the No. 1-ranked Lightning and second-ranked Wildcats didn’t get where they are by being one-dimensional. Eastview has scorers and Eagan has shown it can defend. However, the Eagan offense vs. Eastview defense might be the most intriguing game within the game when the teams meet at 5:30 p.m. at Eastview High School.
Both teams came into this week’s play with identical overall (11-0) and South Suburban Conference (7-0) records. Eagan defeated Lakeville South 18-11 on Tuesday while Eastview beat defending state champion Prior Lake 10-5. The winner of Thursday’s showdown will clinch at least a tie for the SSC championship.
Eagan features an offense that has scored at least 11 goals in every game. The Wildcats have won all their games by at least six goals. Eastview’s defense has several future college lacrosse players, and the Lightning has held all 10 of its opponents to seven goals or fewer.
Going into this week’s play, senior attacker Brandon Wuertz had 40 goals in the Wildcats’ freewheeling offense. Isaac Peifer, a junior, had 31 goals, Aaron Propson had 23 and Darby Sorenson had 18.
“We’ve played this way since I’ve been here,” Eagan coach Bob Felter said following his team’s 17-3 non-conference victory at Woodbury on Saturday. “We try to make it fun for the kids. It’s the way lacrosse is supposed to be played. We don’t like to slow the game down if we can help it.”
After Eagan won at Rosemount 14-5 last month, Rosemount coach Lance Kuehn said his team had trouble adjusting to Eagan’s frenetic pace. If it looks unstructured, that’s at least partly by design, Felter said.
“We have different sets for when we get in 6-on-6, but we try not to get into that because I think we get a little stagnant,” Felter said. “We’re used to playing fast-break lacrosse. When we get a fast break, we’re good at it.”
Eastview has 10 players who are expected to play lacrosse in college. Several of them are on the Lightning defense, which includes returnees such as junior Porter Awad and seniors Tyler McDowell and Reese Orman. Starting goalie Jackson Beran is a senior, too.
“Defensively, we’ve been very solid,” said Eastview coach Tim Roche, whose team remained undefeated after beating Minnetonka 13-7 at home on Saturday. “We’re athletic – we have a lot of kids who are multi-sport athletes. On offense, we’ve been very unselfish.”
Eastview’s willingness to spread it around has led to seven players – Noah Lindner, Noah Joseph, Joe Stillings, Jason Hill, Noah Desrocher, Tyler Hanson and Maxwell Herzog – with at least nine goals each.
Felter has called his goalie, junior Jack Courington, the best in the state. Courington has allowed just 47 goals on 183 shots, a save percentage of .743. The Wildcats tend to be more structured in their own end of the field. “Our defensive coach, Tony Mattia, is big on that,” Felter said. “Actually, we have more defensive sets than we have offensive sets. Even after time outs, we change what defense we’re doing, what set it is, so we have a different look.”
Last year the South Suburban Conference had three teams finish in the top five in the state tournament. Prior Lake beat Lakeville North in the championship game, while Eagan won the consolation title. Five teams – Eastview, Eagan, Prior Lake, Rosemount and Lakeville North – were in the top 10 in last week’s state rankings.
Roche said the biggest relief to the Lightning and Wildcats is “we don’t have to play each other to get to state.” Eastview will be in the Section 6 playoffs, while Eagan defends its championship in Section 3.